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Turn Signals: History, Innovations and Importance

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As a driver, you must be familiar with your car’s turn signal lever. Turn signals have seen a long evolution from humble beginnings to LED and shatterproof ones.

No matter how many innovations were made within the automotive industry, this feature remains. It is a vital safety feature in every vehicle that allows drivers to communicate with other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

However, many drivers fail to use them properly. Using turn signals is not only a safe thing to do, but it’s also required by law. Knowing how to use turn signals properly should be an automatic habit, so you don’t have to think about it while driving.

Learning the Basics

In most cars, the turn signal lever is typically located on the left side of the steering wheel. The lever is shifted up to indicate a right turn and shifted down to indicate a left turn. The turn signal should automatically turn off after a turn or lane change, but if it does not, drivers should turn it off manually as soon as possible.

Turn signals are typically displayed as green arrows on the vehicle’s inside, facing the direction of the intended turn. On the outside, signal lights are on the car’s four corners.

Using turn signals is essential for communication and safety on the road. Signaling your intentions to turn or change lanes allows other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to anticipate your movements and adjust their behavior accordingly. It can help prevent collisions and reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Turn signals help you parking vehicles safely too. Turn on your turn signals when you are waiting for a parking spot, pulling into a parking spot, or pulling out.

Turn the signals on when you are about to turn onto a roadway. It is necessary for both when turning onto a main road from a side street or a side street from a main road. It is also essential when driving at a roundabout or yielding at a red light.

The timing of your turn signal can vary depending on the situation. In residential areas, it’s recommended to signal at least 100 feet before you make your turn. If you’re on the freeway, start signaling at least 900 feet before you merge, exit, or switch lanes.

Short History of Turn Signal Lever

In its early days, turn signals were known as “trafficators,” with a form resembling a signaling arm. Due to its fragile nature, inventors are racing to develop a more modern solution. 

French inventors Gustave Deneef and Maurice Boisson used a solenoid in 1923, while Germans Max Ruhl and Ernst Neuman added light to the solenoid operation in 1927. As time went by, modern turn signals replaced their older counterparts. 

Around 1950, France eventually required all cars to have turn signals. The levers are now known as commodo clignotant.

In the U.S., Buick became the first automaker to offer factory-installed flashing turn signals in 1939. The flashing signals only operated on the rear lights at first, but in 1940, Buick enhanced the directional indicators by extending the signals to the front lights and adding a self-canceling mechanism.

If you plan to get a classic or vintage car, check if the vehicle comes with a turn signal or blinker. Some automobiles, at least up until the 1940s, did not come with turn signals. It could be a safety concern, so many states will not allow you to take this car for a ride.

What To Do If Turn Signals Don’t Work

Troubleshooting turn signal problems can be confusing because the system shares wires and connections with other light systems. Common issues include bulbs, wires, connectors, fuses, flasher units, and switches.

Check the flasher unit first if your turn signal indicator lights on the instrument panel illuminate but don’t flash. Then, check the bulb if one of your signal lights doesn’t come on. Remove the lens, then make sure the two filaments of the bulb are connected. If the glass is not dark, it’s okay; it’s usually just loose. In either case, you can simply replace the bulb.

Remember to also check the socket for damage or corrosion and an opening in the circuit.

A blown fuse or a defunct flashes issue may cause your signal lights to go offline. There could also be a problem with your lever. Your car’s manual usually provides solutions to these issues.

 

Jean-Pierre is a polyglot communication specialist, freelance journalist, and writer for startup.info with over two decades of experience in media and public relations. He creates engaging content, manages communication campaigns, and attends conferences to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. He brings his wealth of experience and expertise to provide insightful analysis and engaging content for startup.info's audience.

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